Step 3: Understanding the Instagram Algorithm (and How to Maximize Engagement)
Before you begin posting content, we need to review the basics of the Instagram algorithm.
In short, the algorithm determines which accounts and pieces of content receive reach and get served to people on Instagram. This includes followers and content published to the platform’s search and home pages.
We don’t need to get too into the nitty-gritty. For now, just know that reach on Instagram is largely influenced by three key factors:
- How much engagement (likes, shares, saves, comments) any given post receives
- The usage of captions and hashtags to highlight what a piece of content is about
- Consistent publishing and variation when it comes to content types
Keeping these factors in mind will make the process of marketing your business on Instagram much less daunting. Below are some specific tips to feeding the Instagram algorithm what it once.
Stick to a Publishing Schedule
This is huge. The more consistently you post, the more likely you are to gain traction and get exposure. But let’s be clear: this isn’t a matter of sacrificing quality for quantity.
Many brands publish on a daily or near-daily basis, meanwhile regularly publishing Stories about as often as necessary. What you publish (and how often) ultimately depends on your time, budget, and resources.
We recommend sticking to some sort of content calendar to make sure you have something in the pipeline (check out the calendar from Iconosquare). Likewise, you can use tools like Later, HootSuite, or Sprout Social to map out and schedule your content accordingly if you’re willing to make the investment.
In addition to publishing consistently, consider the best times to post on social media based on when your audience is most active. Here’s some additional engagement data, based on research from Sprout Social, that can serve as a starting point. Since “optimal” timing varies from business to business, you should assess for yourself when your own “best’ timing is.
The key takeaway here is that you can’t post at random and expect to see returns for your Instagram marketing.
Consider Your Captions and Hashtags
Much like your bio, captions are also incredibly important real estate.
From snappy taglines to storytelling, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing captions. As Instagram has become more and more search-friendly, finding natural ways to integrate terms relevant to your brand or industry is a smart move.
Also, don’t forget about searching for hashtags to couple with your Instagram posts. Many brands will post between two and five tags per post, although posting more in the second comment of a post is also fair game.
Again, hashtags can help your content get picked up in Instagram’s native search or topic pages. They’re a low-hanging way to make your content more discoverable.
Make a Point to Engage with Other Accounts
Upping engagement rates should be a top priority for any brand. Not just for the sake of the algorithm, but the fact that more likes and comments mean that your Instagram marketing is actually resonating with customers.
You can’t simply expect interactions to come flooding in automatically. Instead, you can encourage them naturally by:
- Engaging and commenting on other accounts (think: partners, employees, brands you admire)
- Publishing user-generated content and tagging customers
- Responding to questions and comments that your customers pose